Peter Driver, founder of March for Optimism and associate artist at Chapel Arts Studios looks forward to the Andover community March for Optimism on 20th June.
Global poverty, climate change, immigration, budget deficit, payday loans, welfare cuts, student debt, low-productivity, anti-social behavior, austerity Britain… Our daily diet of news and comment provides a relentless stream of stories focusing on things going wrong. It’s enough to make us give up all hope and turn-in on ourselves, hunker-down and hope it all goes away. Many people, looking at the years ahead, are wondering ‘how are we going to get through this?’
But there is another side to the human story. Human beings are capable of amazing acts of kindness, generosity and community togetherness; advances in science, medicine, learning and the arts. These are made possible through optimism. Not brainless-head-in-the-sand, blind-optimism but the sort that is the prerequisite for inspiring people to believe they can make a difference; the optimism that sparks action and belief in making a better world; the optimism that says things don’t have to carry on like this – we really are all in this together and we can stand together, raising our voices and agitating for better outcomes. The March for Optimism is a public artwork that seeks to celebrate and provoke those ideas.
The first March took place in Winchester in 2014. It was a wonderful, colourful and enjoyable parade along Winchester High Street, made possible with the cooperation of the local authorities and Police. The next March for Optimism will be in Andover on 20th June! It will mark the end of the four-week Bureau of Exchange shop project by Chapel Arts Studios (running at 2b Union Street). Every member of the Andover Community is invited to take part in this event, celebrating the existence of optimism in the world, despite all the reasons for pessimism.
Here are five ways you can get involved:
1. Share your #reasonsforoptimism on Facebook and Twitter – include a photo if you can, but if you’re camera shy we still want to hear from you!
2. Send an email to your mailing list if you have one. We’ve made it easy by creating this email template: http://www.chapelartsstudios.co.uk/…/u…/2015/05/template.pdf
3. Get making banners and placards with slogans about what makes you feel optimistic (nothing divisive or partisan please) – or come along to the making days at the shop on 18th and 19th June to help finish off the banners and placards.
4. Sign-up to attend the event – here’s the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/552507878221746/
and think about volunteering as a steward, or as a banner-carrier or placard-waver.
5. Look out some brightly-coloured clothes to wear on the march!
I am hugely grateful to all the people who have contributed ‘reasons for optimism’ already and for the cooperation of Test Valley Borough Council in making the march possible.
People who see my work might assume that I am some sort of ‘optimism guru’. Nothing could be further from the truth! But I do appreciate the importance of optimism and am interested in the fact and effects of its existence. I think it is one of the keys to making communities work – the belief of each individual that they have something to contribute and that their efforts can help make their community a better place for everyone, that just by being themselves, being active and sharing their talents with others, they strengthen the community to which they belong. That is the sort of optimism I want to celebrate; the sort that sees the best in people, is open and welcoming, accepts the strangeness and peculiarities of others and makes the most of it. One definition of ‘culture’ is simply ‘the way we do things here’. So let’s do this thing as a small gesture towards being more positive and hopeful.